Champions League Final: Five Key Matchups

John Tilghman Correspondent IMay 21, 2010

1. Diego Milito vs. Martin Demichelis and Daniel Van Buyten

Much of the prematch speculation has surrounded how Jose Mourinho will scheme to stop his former star at Chelsea Arjen Robben, but the key to the match will be Bayern's ability to keep Inter out on the counter-attack.

Diego Milito has always been one of the best finishers in the game, but this season he has finally gotten the chance to show his ability at a big club and the former Genoa and Real Zaragoza man has taken his game to a whole new level. 

Milito has been the key to Inter's counter attack, running onto diagonal balls from the likes of Wesley Sneijder, and if the Argentina international can get in behind Bayern's two giant center backs it will only spell trouble for the Bavarians.

Although good individual players, Van Buyten and Demichelis have not been yet been able to form the kind of partnership at the back that exudes confidence. Both player's are also very similar and lack the foot speed that keep up with Milito.

Edge: Milito

2. Javier Zanetti vs. Arjen Robben

After putting in a quality shift against Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti is oozing with confidence and will be desperate to lift the Champions League trophy as captain. Robben, like Messi, plays to Zanetti's advantage in that he is not an out and out winger. 

Robben is perhaps more reliant on his left foot than Messi, and will almost never push his way to the end line to whip in crosses. This will give Zanetti the luxury of pushing the Dutchmen inside where he will have a abundance of defensive help in Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, and Christian Chivu should Romanian crack the starting line up. 

Robben will most likely have a few moments, but the key will be Zanetti's experience to know how to position himself and use the help that he will have at his disposal. 

Edge: Zanetti

3. Mark Van Bommel vs. Wesley Sneijder

The two Dutch World Cup teammates will face off in the middle of the park, where Van Bommel has made a career of being a midfield enforcer, and has been known to pick up his fair share of cards over the years. 

Sneijder has been one of Mourinho's best pick-ups this season, and Sneijder will be again handed the keys to operate Inter's attack, spraying passes for Milito and Samuel Eto'o. 

Although Sneijder has been brilliant, he has been extremely injury prone and has drifted in and out of matches at times when the opposition has been quite physical. 

Van Bommel, a Champions League winner with Barcelona, will have to be on his toes and close down the former Real Madrid man who has been known to shoot any time he is in range. The Bayern skipper will also have to be wary of giving away cheap fouls around the penalty area that could give Sneijder a chance to display his set piece proficiency. 

Edge: Even

4. Julio Cesar vs. Arjen Robben

The Brazilian No. 1 has been the top goalkeeper of this season's Champions League but has also had the luxury of playing behind Europe's best central defensive pairing: Walter Samuel and Lucio.

The two South Americans have effectively shut down ever striker they have faced during the knockout stages, including Didier Drogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, forcing opponents to settle for long range strikes from out side of the box. 

During one of his few good moments against Inter, Lionel Messi got behind Esteban Cambiasso and before he could be closed down by the two center backs, he unleashed a left footed effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner before Cesar went flying across the face of goal to tip aside in what is clearly the save of the season. 

Cesar must be on his toes again, for if there is one area in his game in which Robben holds an advantage over Messi, it is his shot. The former Real Madrid man has scored some fantastic highlight reel volleys, particularly against Manchester United and Fiorentina, but he has also yet to a goalkeeper with the quality of Cesar.

Edge: Even

5. Maicon vs. Holger Badstuber

The best right back in the world began his season indifferently, but has returned to his best during Inter's march to the Final, scoring some important goals along the way. 

Badstuber has been a revelation for the Germans and the young left back will have a key role in neutralizing the Brazilian who specializes in bombing down the right and starting the counter attack. 

Badstuber will not only have to impose physicality on Maicon, but he will have to push forward in order to try and keep Monaco man busy with his defensive duties. 

Edge: Maicon


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